If Chuck Norris is why Waldo is hiding, then imagine the fear inspired by the martial arts film star’s teacher.
His teacher’s name is Royce (pronounced Hoyce) Gracie, the original Ultimate Fighting champion.
Gracie, who won the first Ultimate Fighting Championship title in Denver in 1993, is back in Colorado this week to train other fighters at a seminar held at the Loveland Martial Arts Academy in Loveland.
The UFC is one of the most violent fighting leagues in America, and is governed by few rules. Fighters punch, kick, choke and knee each other into submission, stopping only when one party taps out.
Gracie, 39, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He started training under his father, Helio, at a very young age and earned his black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at18.
At that time, he moved to California to teach private lessons out of a garage with his brother, Rorion.
The 6-foot-1 inch, 180-pound fighter compiled an amateur record of 51-3 while fighting in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments. However, he didn’t become famous until after the UFC was created.
The original purpose of the UFC was to find out how different styles of martial arts.
“As a martial artist you always want to know, in the back of your mind, what would happen if you were to take all the rules out,” Gracie said.
Gracie accepted the challenge and went on to win three out of the first four UFC titles.
The Brazilian wonder was eliminated from UFC 5 after a draw with Ken Shamrock and didn’t return until this year’s UFC 60 on May 27, where Matt Hughes defeated him in a Technical Knock Out.
Gracie said the recent loss was a learning experience.
“I could have defeated him,” he said. “I over-trained and I just didn’t show up.”
The legend sees his opponents in a unique way.
“He’s not my friend, he’s not my enemy, he’s my opponent and my goal is to subdue him,” Gracie said.
Gracie has quite the list of students.
Chuck Norris first started training under him in 1990. Contrary to the recent fad of Chuck Norris jokes, which have given Norris a God-like reputation, Gracie looks at him in a more ordinary way.
“He’s just a student,” he said. “I don’t look at anybody any differently.”
His list also includes training Nicolas Cage for about a year. However, Gracie says training celebrities is still a rarity.
“I’ve trained a lot more military guys and cops than celebrities,” he said. “Military personnel are excellent students because they practice. You teach them how to do it once and they’ll do it all day long until they get it right.”
Adam Martinez, the owner of the Loveland facility, has been training with Royce for 11 years and said that the seminar was a huge success.
At the conclusion of the seminar, Gracie awarded six students with their blue belts, the second ranking for Gracie’s style of Jiu-Jitsu that adult students can achieve.
“I was really happy to see so many of my guys promoted. It’s good to see that my guys are up to his standards,” Martinez said.
Noah Thomas, a professional fighter himself and one of the six who was awarded his blue belt, described Gracie’s style of Jiu-Jitsu as a “methodical way to break somebody.”
Martinez added that the style is about self-defense and subduing your opponent once you have your opponent on the ground.
“He comes in and makes the little adjustments,” Martinez said.
Martinez explained that Gracie came to the Academy to see how his guys were doing and to cover the techniques that they need to know.
“I’m just hear to make sure these guys are doing things right,” Gracie said. “I don’t believe in talents. There are good teachers and there are bad teachers.”
Gracie has four kids, ranging from 9 years to 11 months old. He sees himself as having the same kind of impact on his children as his father had on him, but doesn’t want to pressure them.
“I don’t force them to do anything they don’t want to do,” he said.
However, he went on to explain that his 4-year-old boy has already done some pretty big demos with him.
Gracie couldn’t say when his next fight would be, but that he would fight for another year or two.
“Right now, I’m just training for fun. I’m not getting up at 5 a.m. to do it. In my free time, I run, lift weights, swim, and bike,” he said.
Even as he continues to get older, Gracie’s confidence remains high.
“Tell me what I cannot do and I’ll prove you wrong,” he said.
Staff Writer Brandon Owens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.